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Education Research - Oakland Campus: Searching Techniques

This guide is designed to help graduate students in the School of Education with their Masters or PhD. level research.

Searching Techniques

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Article databases, online library catalogs, and many popular search engines share several general searching techniques. Once you master these common searching techniques, you will save time and find more relevant results.

Combining Search Terms

You can create complex search strategies by combining keywords using the linking words AND, OR and NOT.  For example, if your search terms are mathematics and curriculum:

  • AND – Narrows and focuses the search results.  The search mathematics and curriculum will bring only results where both the terms mathematics and curriculum are present.  
  • OR – Broadens the search results.  Using or will bring results where the term mathematics is present, or results where curriculum is present, or results where both terms are present.  Or is useful if you have more than one way to refer to a concept -- Example: elementary or primary.
  • NOT – Excludes anything where the term after the NOT is present. 

Selecting Keywords

The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get.  Here's a good exercise to help you generate keywords:

Express your topic in a topic sentence: “What is the effect of television violence on children?”

2.  Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within that topic sentence:  “What is the effect of television violence on children?” = Effect;  Television,  Violence, or  Television violence; and Children

3.  Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:

  • Television – media, TV,
  • Violence – aggression,
  • Effect – influence,
  • Children – toddlers, youngsters, boys, girls

Access Our Library Anywhere!

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Access to full-text library resources from off-campus is easy! 

Search as you normally do, click on the link to full-text, log in with your Pitt email login and password, and you're good to go for your entire searching session! Access will work best if you stay in the same browser.